Jeff Purswell writes:
Who dreamed that their church participation was so significant? Giving the world a glimpse of the consummated kingdom of God!
Does such a grand vision govern our attitude toward our local churches? If it does, our participation will no doubt reflect it. We will love, serve, sacrifice, forgive, forbear, employ our gifts, mortify our pride – all that we might together “display in this present evil age the life and fellowship of the Age to come.”
Churches that display such a life, however imperfectly, are God’s most potent intstruments in his cosmic program to reclaim and restore his creation.
At first glance this may not seem to be all that interesting of a paragraph. But it is far more than a poetic ode to the Church and what the Church ought to be.
I think it safe to say that most of us desire peace in our churches. We want to get along with everyone. We want everyone to think well of us. That is, afterall, what the church is supposed to be like. Unfortunately, it is not the reality experienced all the time in any church.
When we find ourselves in the middle of tensions or conflict, or even if we are simply on the perifery observing it between friends and fellow church members, it can cause an agonizing feeling. We know this is not the way things ought to be. We think, “God cannot be glorified in this.”
While God is not glorified by church conflict, notice two of the words in the above paragraph: forgive and forbear. These are important words to think about. While both are noble words, they would not exist apart from some sort of tension or conflict.
What Jeff seems to be suggesting is that while peace & unity are marks of Christ’s Church, the real life struggles of living, breathing, sin-infected people that make up the membership of the church almost guarantees that from time to time we will rub one another the wrong way. Yet if we are a people, marked by the gospel, committed to reconciliation through the practices of forbearing and forgiving one another, even the presence of conflict within a congregation provides opportunity to glorify God.